By Ros Satar, in Cincinnati

  • Roger Federer [2] v Novak Djokovic [10]
  • H2H: Djokovic leads 23-22
CINCINNATI, USA – In one of the closest rivalries between the Big Four, Novak Djokovic seeks the elusive Cincinnati Masters title, while Roger Federer is unbeaten in finals here.

 

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Roger Federer [2] v Novak Djokovic [10] | H2H: Djokovic leads 23-22

Roger Federer’s ploy to skip the back to back Masters tournaments paid off as he reached an eighth final, and has yet to lose on the last day at the Western & Southern Open. Novak Djokovic has been in this position five times in the past, and on three of occasions has lost to Federer (2009, 2012 and 2015) but off the back of his Wimbledon win as he continues his injury comeback – will this be his day?

 

Federer’s Path to the Final

Roger Federer in the second round of the Western & Southern Open, ATP Cincinnati 2018

Roger Federer in the second round of the Western & Southern Open, ATP Cincinnati 2018 | (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

  • R1: BYE
  • R2: Peter Gojowczyk 6-4 6-4
  • R3: Leonardo Mayer 6-1 7-6(6)
  • QF: Stan Wawrinka [WC] 6-7(2) 7-6(6) 6-2
  • SF: David Goffin [11] 7-6(3) 1-1 RET

 

Federer’s main test came against compatriot Stan Wawrinka as the Swiss took a set off the World No. 2 before another tense set, with Federer getting the upper hand. A brief delay after lightning and thunder served Federer better as he took control of the decider. He was also tested in the first set against David Goffin who sadly had to retire early in the second set.

 

Djokovic’s Path to the Final

Novak Djokovic in the second round of the Western & Southern Open, ATP Cincinnati 2018

Novak Djokovic in the second round of the Western & Southern Open, ATP Cincinnati 2018 | (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

  • R1: Steve Johnson 6-4 7-6(4)
  • R2: Adrian Mannarino 4-6 6-2 6-1
  • R3: Grigor Dimitrov [5] 2-6 6-3 6-4
  • QF: Milos Raonic 7-5 4-6 6-3
  • SF: Marin Cilic 6-4 3-6 6-3

 

From the start of the tournament, Djokovic has been searching for improvement in his game, by his own admission, as he has gone the distance in every match since the second round. He has come from behind twice, downing defending champion Grigor Dimitrov along the way.

Djokovic looked ahead to the match-up after his win over the 2016 champion Marin Cilic.

“I hope it will not be the same final for me (smiling) but we will, obviously if we got a chance to play, we will play each other after a long time. We haven’t played each other for quite some time, which is unusual, because I’m used to playing Roger, over the course of almost 10 years, I have played him so many times. Played him the most after the rivalry with Nadal.

“He has influenced greatly — the rivalry with him and him personally has influenced the evolution of my game. So, I mean, it would be the greatest challenge in Cincinnati, without a doubt, and many tournaments, especially here, because he’s been dominating this tournament historically. He won against me several times in finals.

“You know, obviously he feels great in these conditions and this surface. But, you know, obviously he has to win his semi-finals, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

 

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Final preview

With both players having maintained their perfect record in Cincinnati semi-finals (Federer 8-0, Djokovic 6-0) Djokovic comes into the match just slightly ahead on their enduring rivalry.

In the past Djokovic’s elasticity on returns and control from the baseline, and his ability to conjure up angles from almost anywhere on the court has proved to frustrate Federer, whose game has evolved over his many years at the top. His longevity now down to canny scheduling sets this up to be an intriguing encounter for their first clash since the semi-finals of the Australian Open in 2016, and Federer will be looking to snap a two-match losing streak against the Serbian.

Federer’s versatility and fluid style of play has made him a crowd favourite all over the world, but there has been a fair degree of love out there this tournament for Djokovic. His trials and tribulations with injury has seemed to make him a hungrier player out there, and he will be using the fact he has never won this tournament (much less what is riding on the line here) as motivation.

We can hope for a three-set battle at the very least. Federer has had his moments of form-dips and has been hustled to tie-breaks in his path to the final, and Djokovic will have to raise his game and find a solution for the various elements he has been unhappy with this week, in short order as Federer will punish any shorter lacklustre balls with gusto.

Either way it will be a fascinating encounter, and it might just be Djokovic’s day.

Prediction: Djokovic in three sets.

The Men’s Final at the Western & Southern Open will take place not before 4pm (9pm BST).

 

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